When it comes to selecting your infrastructure model, you have different options. It is easy to get confused with that diversity, especially when some terms actually mean the same. Would you choose multi-tenant servers over infrastructure as a service (IaaS)? Do you prefer bare metal servers versus serverless infrastructure? Are hypervisors your best option? Not sure? Well, this article will help you clear out some of the confusion. Today, let’s talk bare metal!
But First, Let’s Define What Is a Server!
Don’t get me wrong, but not everyone knows what exactly is a server. So, let’s make sure we cover this from the start.
Techtarget.com defines a server as “a computer program or device that provides a service to another computer program and its user, also known as the client”.
Simply put, a server is a computer dedicated to delivering one or more functionalities that users can enjoy on desktops, laptops, mobile devices, smart TVs, gaming consoles, or other network-connected equipment. The functionality is used through a client application (software binaries installed on the end-user device) or an internet browser.
You Use Servers Every Day
The simplest example is email servers. No one can deny email has been the most popular service since the internet was launched in the nineties.
If we take Gmail, without getting into too much detail:
- Alphabet (also known as Google) is the company hosting the email servers in its data centers.
- The servers run programs that send and receive the millions of messages users generate daily.
- All messages and their attachments are saved into storage in the data centers.
- Users read and compose their messages from their preferred device using the Gmail app or a web browser (the “client“).
- Clicking or tapping on “Send” actually triggers the servers for delivering the message to the recipient through a protocol (the “feature“) known as SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol).
- Gmail is considered a cloud service and Google is the provider.
With this in mind, let’s hop to the core of our story today.
What Are Bare Metal Servers?
A bare metal server solution allows you to get full ownership of a hardware server hosted and run at a provider’s facility or on your premises. It is also known as a “single-tenant server” option, as opposed to “multi-tenant”.
The distinction comes from the fact that cloud services are delivered through a shared infrastructure by design. Multi-tenancy means multiple customers “rent” virtual resources from the same physical servers, storage and network. Their resources are not assigned to a particular server and can be moved from one equipment to the other, or scattered over multiple servers. All resources are isolated (or “segregated”), so no customer will ever access another one’s data.
In a bare metal server scenario rather, you, as a customer, are the only “tenant” of a whole physical server. You have complete control over the server, and you can install and configure it as you wish. Do you want to deploy virtual machines? You are free to do so. Do you want to use the whole server as a single computer? It’s your call.
Bare metal servers can be located inside a data center or in any other location. In a decentralized infrastructure, edge gateways can be considered bare metal servers as they provide processing power, storage, memory and network connectivity. They will host software used for different solutions.
What About Bare Metal Hypervisors?
A hypervisor is a program that allows a hardware server (“the host”) to run multiple virtual machines (or “guests”). Hypervisors make it possible to run multiple operating systems (OS) at the same time using a single machine. Each virtual machine will run a different OS, have its dedicated CPUs, storage volumes, memory and network.
There are two kinds of hypervisors.
Type 1 Hypervisor: The Bare Metal Option
This type of hypervisors create a single software layer between the host and the guests. When you install such a program on a server, only the binaries to start creating, running and managing virtual machines and networks get deployed. For this reason, we also call them “bare metal hypervisors”, or “bare metal solution” or “bare metal servers” (abusively).
Common examples of type 1 hypervisors are VMware ESXi, Citrix XenServer or Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM). Be aware that while Ormuco offers a full bare metal server option, it is more than a simple hypervisor!
Type 2 Hypervisor: Install an OS First
This other type requires an operating system (OS) to be installed first before the hypervisor itself. This means another kind of software can run on the host computer independently, along with the hypervisor.
Common examples of type 2 hypervisors are Oracle VM VirtualBox or VMware Workstation Player. They will run on top of Mac OS X or Windows or Linux for instance.
Type 2 hypervisors are also known as “hosted hypervisors”.
How and When Bare Metal Servers Are a Winner
When it comes to comparing type 1 and type 2 hypervisors, here is how bare metal servers are more attractive.
Better for Compliance
- In case your industry is under strict regulatory standards, bare metal servers guarantee strong data privacy.
- You can reach your compliance goals easily as your data will never cohabit with any other company’s files.
- Bare metal servers will allow you to use the full power of the underlying hardware.
- There is no program such as an operating system hijacking some of the disk, memory or processing power, so you get more capacity available.
- You never have to worry about slowdowns due to high web traffic or server loads from other companies.
- Bare metal servers are faster and more responsive because there is no extra layer of software.
- When your servers reside in your own premises, you already have full access and control on the hardware.
- When hosted at a provider’s data center, you can still get the same total access and control. Check the terms and conditions.
Note: When your bare metal servers are located at a provider’s data center, they are responsible for building and maintaining a high-quality, powerful, and reliable server with SLAs. Consequently, you benefit from guaranteed high availability and low downtime.
Addressing the Downsides of Bare Metal Servers
For sure, there are also downsides to bare metal servers. The most obvious being that by relying on one hardware, you are creating a single point of failure. But, you can solve this issue by configuring redundancy on your hardware.
Use Redundant Power and Network Connections
To avoid your servers being dependent on a single source of power, make sure they are connected to two different sources. On the networking side, always use teamed network adapters for fault tolerance on the systems. Connect each adapter to a different switch and network wiring.
Use Clustered Storage and Servers
If one component is faulty on one node, the cluster will fail over to another node. This way, your services will never stop.
Build a Disaster Recovery Strategy
Make sure you back up your systems and build a recovery site from where you can continue to run your services in case a disaster strikes.
Choosing bare metal servers means you would be sacrificing some flexibility and data portability. But if you need a server environment that is completely customizable with incredible speed and reliability, they are definitely what you need! Did you know you can use the Ormuco solution to build bare metal servers? Contact us now to learn more!